Gardening At Work

September 15, 2016 | Doug Oster comments
Robbie Kiefer UPMC Shadyside

Foreman of Grounds Robbie Kiefer (right) reaches out for a lovely red and yellow ‘Pineapple’ tomato that Joe Murphy had just picked from the UPMC Shadyside garden. Murphy, a groundskeeper at the Shadyside hospital stands above harvesting heirloom fruits, handing them to Kiefer below. PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Robbie Kiefer is the head groundskeeper at UPMC Shadyside and knows a little something about creating a successful garden at her workplace. When her team inherited the beds, they were a mix of shrubs and other trees. Nothing special, and nothing edible.

Now five years after taking over, they have a full fledged vegetable garden, and an oasis for staff and patients alike. The containers are a site for sore eyes, full of vegetables, herbs and flowers. The lower garden has cool weather crops like greens, onions, and strawberries.

Besides being beautiful, the garden offers fresh produce within a short walk of the UPMC Shadyside kitchens. Executive Chief Joshua Cope was able to run out one day when he realized he didn’t have rosemary for one of his recipes. Besides a last minute herb or two, the garden produced a substantial 50 lbs of cucumbers this year. Cope was able to take those cucumbers and bring to life a version of a beloved salad his mother used to make.

Chef Joshua Cope of UPMC

Executive chef of catering for UPMC Shadyside. Joshua Cope, harvests rosemary from the garden. PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Gardeners and the chef aren’t the only ones who value the space. So does the director of cultural excellence, Shelly Watters. She describes herself as “kind of like a guidance counselor for the hospital.” The space offers just the right relaxation for people to escape from what can feel like a world where bad things happen to good people.” She describes the time spent in the garden as, “almost like a brief little bubble bath for the soul.”

Shelly Watters UPMC Shadyside

Shelley Watters, director of cultural excellence at UPMC Shadyside enjoys the lower garden. PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

The lower garden at UPMC Shadyside offers a rare opportunity for staff and visitors to take a breath of fresh air and feel at least a bit better.